Hoof Fungus Fomes fomentarius at the Devil's Spittleful NR
In August 2011 some members of the Wyre Forest Study Group were looking for nocturnal beetles on the Devil's Spittleful with Alan Brown. On our wanderings Alan pointed out some fungi on birch tree that he had found but uncertain as to which species they were. At night they were difficult to identify but clearly they were not the usual birch polypore Polyporus betulinus.
I returned in daylight a few days later to check and discovered them to be young specimens of Fomes fomentarius (Hoof Bracket Fungus) . The lower fruiting brackets were zoned in shades of light brown, somewhat atypical, but higher on the tree a typical grey coloured bracket was noted. In total three trees were found with Fomes present. All the trees were moribund with no top branches and were dead or dying. Several trees had the Birch Bracken Fungus also present with the Fomes.
Hoof Fungus is a common species in Scotland growing on mature birch but becomes very rare further south into England. possibly with no more than three or four records for Worcestershire in recent years. I have seen the species in Shropshire a couple of times on large a fallen birches within secondary woodland.
It may be an overlooked species but possibly the sandy soils typical of the Kidderminster area are suitable for it. It does not appear to be an ancient woodland species but found in mature secondary woodland. Other areas of secondary birch woodland may support this species: perhaps naturalists tend to ignore the bracket fungi on birch thinking it will always be the common birch polypore.
The few decayed birches and other suitable trees at the Devil's Spittleful are to retained when the next phase of heathland restoration begins, so hopefully Fomes will remain and colonise other trees.
Fig. 1. Fomes fomentarius, Devil's Spittleful. John Bingham